Thursday, July 30, 2009

White Roofs Would Work Very Well Across South Asia

Today's New York Times has a good piece on the advantages that come from painting roofs white, especially in hot climates at: The principle, of course, is simple: white roofs would absorb less heat than those of any other color. Scientists argue about how much of a difference this would make in the colder parts of the USA, for example, in winter, when white roofed homes would have to be heated more. But there is a clear market for this in the part of the world that I come from: South Asia.

Much of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka is hot to extremely hot for most of the year. The region receives sunlight for several hours a day for most of the year. In the past, homes either had thatched roofs, or some like the one where I was born and spent the first twelve years of my life, had twenty foot ceilings in the pre-airconditioner era. Now, of course, with multi-storey apartment buildings all over the region and with booming populations forcing the construction of even more of these shoebox-stacks, one option that could help is white roofs. Hopefully, someone will take heed in that part of the world. This is as simple as an idea can get - and the savings when we consider that the region has one and a half billion residents - should be huge.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Suggestion for The Golden Quadrilateral

India was an early pioneer in harnessing wind energy though that seems, recently, to have fallen by the wayside thanks to Suzlon Energy's near collapse. However, this does not diminish from the opportunity that this clean energy sector still has to offer. Today's New York Times Green Inc blog talks about erecting wind turbines along highways: I can see where this would be especially easy to do along the new Golden Quadrilateral highway system tat is being constructed in India at the moment. This is a state of the art highway that is being built around the country from all indications. Though there have been problems including corruption, it is progressing. Obviously, with a highway available to provide access to turbines all along the route, maintenance and servicing would be very easy. Also, in much of India which is starved of water, this could be a superb way of generating power without tapping into the country's meager water reserves.

The Times article also talks about solar power being harnessed along the route. I am not sure if this would be all that practical for India though there is something that could definitely make a difference - Tata BP Solar manufacture solar powered street lighting as well as traffic lights and these could be deployed along the route. In fact, if Tata were to use the strengths of their huge software division at TCS and build an intelligent switching system using solar powerand WiLL to control the lights using data inputs for traffic along the route, they would not only have a world-class system to show for their efforts, they would also help save millions of gallons of fuel.

Yes, there is potential to show fossil fuel the fist! Let's hope that this opportunity is taken up either by the Government of India or by a forward looking private company like the Tatas!

Thanks to All Friends in India Who Helped Spread Information on Green Tech

I asked for help on spreading information on Terrabon and other green tech last week as the Deputy Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, M K Stalin, was due to travel to San Antonio to check out river cleanup methods. And I got this help in more than spades. Friends in India passed on my post and links to this blog to several environmental groups, to newspapers there as well as sent me the contact details of the Dy CM himself. I e-mailed the suggestions that I had to him, but have not heard back. That is fine - if he does look at the information and does something about recycling the sewage in the Cooum into car fuel, that would be triumph enough.

Subsequently, there has been another view on Outlook, every bit as skeptical as mine: I did post the information that I have been blogging about in the Comments Section there just to get more people to look at it and learn more about the possibilities that are available. Hopefully, this would bring some more people over to this side and get them to press the government to look at using the sewage and not at just pushing it out into the sea.

But, most importantly, I must thank all friends who helped. In particular, Lion Ram Kumar, Hemant Nahar, Vasanthy Rajiv, Kamla Ravikumar and Kulasekaran. I must also thank Chennai journalist and campaigner for environmental causes there, Vincent D'Souza who showed me how to contact the Dy CM. This list is not exhaustive and I must thank everyone who has been supportive of this attempt at spreading information. I hope to work with these friends to keep the momentum up in the future.

Thank you, everyone. I am fortunate in having great friends!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why Is Tamilnadu Looking at Dredging the Cooum but not at Converting the Sewage to Motor Fuel?

Autoblog Green has this piece about a Texas company called Terrabon that is using a process developed by Texas A&M University to convert non food biomass into a gasoline fuel: The company has a trial going on to sell this "green gasoline" and it has been used in cars with no conversion required to the engines. The sources from which Autoblog Green got this article are the Houston Chronicle, whose original article on the subject is at: and there is a comment on Green Car Advisor at:

Yesterday, the Tamilnadu government announced that Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin would be visiting San Antonio TX to check on their river dredging system - quite pompously, this was referred to as the "San Antonio Model" by the Indian media. My question is simple - San Antonio and Houston are both in Texas. Why on earth isn't whoever is advising Mr Stalin to visit San Antonio to find out how sewage in the COoum could be gotten rid of by being pushed into the sea, arranging for him to meet this company and figure out how to cash in on a huge resource that is available in Chennai? No one expects the Deputy CM to be a technical man who keeps abreast of the latest in technologies all over the world, but surely, the IAS officers and engineering college professors in India who claim to be turning out the best students in that part of the world ought to know better? And what about the Indian media? Don't they have science and technology writers?

Somehow, I am amazed at the sheer lack of knowledge that is almost always exhibited by the Indian bureaucracy, and even more, by the technical educators in that part of the world. Sometimes, like in the case of the now curiously silent N N Sachitanand of DNA India, the "expert" comments on new technology that come out seem to be idiotic to put it mildly. And then, when the question of converting waste into a very valuable resource comes up, again, the Indian bureaucracy can be expected to not do its homework. What a tragedy! Is it any wonder that despite having so many resources, India is still a backward, third-world nation?

Terrabon LLC's website is:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Yet more Pompous Blatting or a Genuine Effort this Time?

The Hindu reports that the State of Tamilnadu in India is to udnertake what it calls "the San Antonio Model" to revive the Cooum River: According to this news, the state government is to send some officials very shortly on a trip to Texas where they would look at what has been done in San Antonio to their sewage and then implement this in Chennai. Apparently, the project will be financed by the World Bank. Somehow, am I the only one who is more than just skeptical about this?

Many years ago, flush with their experience in rejuvenating the Thames, the British offered a huge amount of money and knowhow to clean the Cooum up. Then, as now, the Tamilnadu government made a big noise about how the Cooum would be cleaned up very shortly. Nothing really happened and the river only stank even more as more and more fecal matter ended up in it. It is not as if San Antonio is special in the scheme of things as far as managing sewerage is concerned - virtually any major city in the USA can provide this knowhow. My take on this is that some official in the TN government probably has a son or daughter or some other relative who lives in San Antonio. This entire story about using a "San Antonio Model" to clean the Cooum is little more than a plan to travel there and spend some time at public expense.

I'll also say that I shall be happy to reverse everything that I have said here if something is really done about the Cooum. Visitors here will recall how many times I have spoken about using the sewage as a resource to generate methane for power generation and the solid matter as fertilizer to be used in forestry as is done all over the USA. The news item on the so-called "San Antonio Model" does not have any information on exactly what the government plans to do. My skepticism may just end up proving itself as fully justifiable.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Cost Saving Airconditioning Technology for South Asia?

Canada's Globe and Mail is one of two newspapers from that coutnry that I read online every day. It has an interesting take on events in North America and is often much better to read than some of the American newspapers are because it does not talk down to its readership unlike some of the pompous a$$h01es in the US media. The following post is one which talks about an airconditioning technology with very interesting potential: As some of the comments that follow have said, the idea of using ice to reduce the load on airconditioning systems is not new, but this is the first time that this is being offered as a ready to use product. Any entrepreneurs in India, Pakistan etc waiting to adopt this product?

The website of the company that has developed and is offering this technology is:

Monday, July 6, 2009

Philips Designs a More Efficient Incandescent Bulb

The New York Times has this report about Philips's new design for a high-tech incandescent bulb: And the competition has been joined - Osram, Sylvania, GE and others are working tod evelop their own high tech bulbs as are several university departments. I do think this is a good idea. I use CFLS exclusively in my house, but I am always worried about what would happen if one of them were to break by accident. There is no way that I would like to spend $ 2500 or whatever it costs to get your home cleaned up if one of the CFLs breaks indoors. Yes, I have seen a sharp decline in my monthly bills since I started using the CFLs three years ago, before it was fashionable. And they have lasted long - much longer than I would have expected incandescent bulbs to last.

However, my next home - I can't see myself living in Ill-Annoy forever - will have Solatube Daylighting and the bulbs for use at night with be high tech incendescents. Philips Lighting's website is:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fun Green Inc / New York Times Contest

There is a fun contest on The New York Times's Green Inc page asking readers to send in suggestions to replace the "Saudi Arabia" trope: As this blog believes in showing fossil fuel the fist, this is a laudable thought. Why should someone with clean energy in their mind look at the worst producer of fossil fuel and use the Saudi name to define their topic of interest?

So get your creative juices flowing and start posting there. Let's see how many interesting new tropes come about as a result of this contest - I shall happily use them on this blog in the future with credit to the NYT / Green Inc of course.